Sunday, September 30, 2007

Happy 38th Birthday John!

John's birthday is actually tomorrow (October 1st) but we celebrated it tonight. Since John has been meeting with a nutritionist and has been vigorously and consistently working out at the gym, he has dropped 12 pounds! So we thought we'd celebrate by pigging out on pizza and cake... No, in all seriousness, John's nutritionist told him to go hog-wild on his birthday so that tomorrow it'll all be behind him. So we got his favorite comfort food (pizza) and I baked a deep, dark chocolate cake, served with vanilla ice cream and strawberries...mmmmmm.

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you...

Sarah thought Daddy needed help blowing out the candles.

Christopher wants to know why that card is so funny.

Hannah hangin' out with Nana on the floor.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tonight in family worship...

... Christopher asked me, "Does Jesus believe in himself?" "He sure does," I replied. Mindy and I thought that was a good little question!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

She was such a quiet baby...

For months, our description of Hannah has been, "She has such a sweet disposition and she's so quiet..." She hardly ever lets me know when she's awake from a nap, so oftentimes I walk into the nursery and find her contentedly looking and smiling at the mobile hanging above the crib. She smiles constantly and easily, lets out a giggle here and there, but hardly ever laughs out loud. Well, as you will see from the video clip below, her silence has ended...

The Carrot Cake Diet

"Lose weight by eating carrot cake!" That is going to be the theme of my first book, which I'm sure will net me several million dollars. You see, last night we went over to our friend's house (Patrick and Kristen). Kristen had a made a homemade carrot cake, and not wanting to be either rude or unappreciative of her labors, I had a slice. It was the only right thing to do. She mentioned in passing that the calorie info was in her cookbook. When we got home, I called her and had her look it up. 650 calories! I had a lot of leftover calories at the end of the day - but I was shocked at the number. Yet this morning, lo and behold, I lost another pound. Which leads me to my groundbreaking discovery: The Carrot Cake Diet! Keep your eyes peeled on Amazon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I finally found a verse in the Bible this morning that I have no problem obeying. In fact, I probably over-obey. Psalm 63:5a says, "My soul will be satisfied as with rich and fat food." :-) Actually, I'm happy to report that the scales told me this morning that I've dropped 10 pounds over the past three weeks. Progress!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Between Two Extremes: Liberalism & Fundamentalism

Michael Craven's weekly article touches upon a theme that I speak of often. In fact, in Sunday's sermon I spoke about how the Gospel is neither Pharisaical Fundamentalism or Sadducee Liberalism, but something altogether different than the normal dividing line of this world. I've pasted the content of Michael's article below. I strongly encourage you to sign up for his free weekly article which is sent via email every Monday morning. It's good stuff.

Between Two Extremes: Liberalism & Fundamentalism

The latter half of the 20th century has seen the emergence of two extremes in the American Church and its relationship to the culture — liberal revisionism on the one side and conservative fundamentalism on the other. Both, I contend, have hindered the work and ministry of the Church. One renders the Christian faith meaningless while the other makes it irrelevant.

Liberal revisionism has capitulated to contemporary culture and with it many truths of the historic faith. Liberal revisionism ultimately renders the Christian message meaningless by reducing Christ to anything you want him to be — there is simply no authority in this view beyond your own preference and cultural whims. My concern herein however is not for liberal revisionism but conservative fundamentalism, which has become the predominant view. Additionally, unlike liberal revisionism, conservative fundamentalism remains Christian but a distorted version of it that is often difficult to distinguish. A recent conversation with Os Guinness offers this further insight:

Fundamentalism has become an overlay on the Christian faith and developed into an essentially modern reaction to the modern world, a reaction that tends to romanticize the past ... and radicalize the present, with styles of reaction that are personally and publicly militant to the point where they are sub-Christian or worse.

I think Os puts this well when he describes fundamentalism as "an overlay" which, as a result, has captured the thinking of many unwitting Christians. This is frequently expressed in terms of conservative politics, Christian nationalism and what one Evangelical writer revealed when he referred to the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount as "Americanisms." Being Christian and being American are often thought to be synonymous.

Practically, these expressions are manifest in the almost exclusive reliance upon coercion and politics as the means and method of bringing culture under the influence of biblical principles. The idea is that if "we" can only capture political control we can bring about cultural change in a way that recovers biblical values. Cal Thomas refers to this as expecting the "Kingdom of God to arrive on Air Force One."

This is, in large part, inspired by a romantic, but inaccurate, view of the past in which we believe that America was once a distinctly "Christian nation" and from the time of our founding has suffered the linear descent from once Christian to now secular. There is no doubt that secularism has achieved its pinnacle in our time; however, this does not mean that Christianity was the singular prevailing reality that occupied its place prior to this point. More accurately, the Church in America, much like the Israelites of the Old Testament, has been cyclical with periods of spiritual apathy punctuated by periods of great Awakenings and faithfulness. A serious survey of history will quickly confirm this. Consider that on the eve of the American Revolution, church attendance in this country was less than 10 percent, significantly lower than it is today. Nonetheless, driven by a romanticized view of the past, there is the desire to recover this past, but this is often nothing more than a conservative social/political movement with a shallow Christian identity.

To be sure, Christians should be involved politically. This is part and parcel of being a good citizen within a democratic republic. However, Christianity is not nor ever should be defined politically — it is and always must be defined theologically and confessionally. This is where these two extremes share an equal role in undermining the Church's mission. While liberal revisionism errs in defining Christianity culturally, conservative fundamentalism errs in defining Christianity politically, which is often limited to nothing more than conservative political positions. To be sure, these may tend more toward biblical values than the liberal position, but neither political expression is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. They, in and of themselves, are not the source of truth — they are merely political positions that must be tested against the truth of Scripture. Ironically, politics has never changed culture as politics is a reflection of culture not vice versa.

The ultimate effect of conservative fundamentalism upon the Church is one of cultural irrelevance. Fundamentalism tends to see the world as something to oppose rather than to engage and influence. As a result there naturally follows a disregard for anything deemed "worldly" and this includes among other things, intellectualism. Fundamentalists will say "The only book I need is the Bible" and thus remain uninformed about the world and incapable of meaningful influence. This same attitude is expressed toward the study of theology and Church history, which results in a sophomoric theology — wholly inadequate to shape a coherent biblical response to the complexities of life and culture.

Fundamentalism inevitably reduces the Christian faith to a simplistic set of behaviors and the emphasis tends toward legalism and personal piety — it remains a private belief and not a public truth to be pressed into every aspect of life and culture. Additionally, with the emphasis on external behaviors (i.e. sin management), there is little effort applied in converting the human heart and mind with all of its wretched attitudes. This theological myopia has been central to the deplorable lack of a consciously Christian life and worldview among so many professing Christians as documented by George Barna and others.

Additionally, this "opposing" posture is inherently adversarial, inciting an "us versus them" mentality rather than an "us for them" attitude. This mentality can even be seen in much of the Church's approach to evangelism, which often treats the gospel message as an argument to win. In such a state, the Church is polarized against the culture and the "Good News" is reduced to a "sales pitch" often relying on high pressure and committed to closing the deal. In many instances the gospel is subtly defined in terms of "happiness," which is not even the true gospel. Gone is the demonstration of the gospel where the Christian is encouraged to "love his neighbor" and then through the course of a, possibly long and at times difficult, relationship, disciple him or her into the truth. This is the Great Commission and it remains unchanged to this day.

Fundamentalism is not only antagonistic to the world but often toward other Christians as well. Fundamentalists tend to view anyone outside their particular tradition or beyond their theological distinctions with suspicion at best or as outright unbelievers at worst. The result is increasing division within the Body of Christ over what often amounts to non-essentials.

Liberalism won't press the kingdom in the culture because it has surrendered to the culture; it is of the world, and Fundamentalism won't because it is not in the world but rather opposed to it. What is needed is a return to the historic Christian position of being in but not of the world. This position requires that we do the hard work of renewing our minds to form a coherent and comprehensive view of life and reality through the lens of a distinctively Christian worldview-being confident in the Truth. It also means that we endeavor to understand and engage the culture in a humble and intelligent way so that we might reach the lost and suffering with the reality of Jesus Christ.

© 2007 by S. Michael Craven

Friday, September 21, 2007

Do you know the capital of Burkina Faso?

Since we're on the subject of memory work, here is yet more proof that children are like sponges, absorbing all sorts of information within their grasp. And believe me, there is more knowledge within their grasp than you think!
Today I took the kids to Target to restock my kitchen. While we were in the produce section, Christopher struck up a conversation with a very friendly and attractive woman (Becky) about what kinds of vegetables and fruits they both liked. Her accent revealed that she wasn't from around here, so I told Christopher to ask her where she was from. She looked at him and said, "I am from you know where Africa is?" She then looked at me and said she was from the western part of Africa. Christopher then asked her which country, to which she replied, "I am from a country called Nigeria." Christopher's eyes got big and he said, "That's next to Burkina Faso!" As her jaw began its descent to the floor, he then proceeded to say, "The capital of Burkina Faso is Ougadougou (pronounced wah-gah-doo-goo)!!" She looked at me in utter astonishment and asked, "How does he know this??" I asked Christopher if he knew the capital of Nigeria. He looked at her and said, "Abuja." Floored again (as was I), she said, "You must tell me how he knows this! My children don't even know the capital of Nigeria!" I told her about the LeapFrog Explorer Globe that occupies much of Christopher's play time. He often points out countries and bodies of water that I've never even heard of. She told me the only reason why she knew the capital of Burkina Faso was because a woman in her church was going to start an orphanage there. She then looked at Christopher and asked if he went to church (ha!). I told him to tell her what his Daddy did every Sunday, and he said, "Preach." She then said that when we all get to heaven, it won't matter who was presbyterian or baptist or whatever, as long as we believe in Jesus. So who knew that in the produce section of Target we would get a glimpse of heaven, where there will be people from every tribe and language and people and nation? Very cool.
On that note, if you have small children, stuff their little minds with as much truth and knowledge as possible and make their worlds a little bigger.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

more catechisms...

Here is a video of Sarah (age 2 1/2) reciting her catechism Q&A's (#1-10) and another one of Christopher reciting Q&A #s 11-28. Sarah is normally very eager to answer these questions, but I think she got a little camera shy since she knew she was being taped. Who says you have to drill these questions while sitting still in a classroom? I think Christopher actually recites them better while bouncing around my room (you'll excuse the mess...)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Theological truths for a 4 year old

Here is a video clip from family worship tonight. Christopher is reciting children's catechism questions #29 thru #36. It's amazing how much truth a child can memorize. Our philosophy is that what fills their mind today will shape their hearts tomorrow. We really believe in the benefit of old-fashioned catechizing! We'll post footage of Sarah reciting the first 10 Q&A's tomorrow.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

a blog of vital importance

I want to tell you about "the extraordinary wit and delectable prose" of Evanda Remington. Our good friend and former church member Evanda Remington has begun a self-described "blog of vital importance". Mindy and I love it.

We find the subtitle, "a blog of vital importance", very funny for two reasons. First, it is self-contradictory. Blogs are by nature not vitally important. They are passing thoughts. Disposable diapers of the virtual world. Second, Ev actually says what most of us who blog want people to think of our blog. Mindy and I have discovered that we have people in Germany and China who read our blog, and we have quite a steady following in England and Australia too. (Go figure.) But we would never be bold enough to say that we want people to think of our blog as "of vital importance". But Evanda just puts it out there for the world to see. So we think Evanda is very funny on many levels. We love his colorful vocabulary too!

I think of Evanda & Shelly (who now lives in Atlanta) every time I see our network server computer at the church. You see, several years ago a fire sprinkler line in the ceiling burst, drenching our network computer in water. Evanda got all our tech stuff fixed up and working again. And he left a little sticker on the network computer which still reads, "Do not immerse in water." Every week I see that little sticker and chuckle.

So visit Evanda's blog of vital importance here, but before you do, let me quote his "about us" section:

Often, someone with a C.S. degree, working in software, and frequently using the Internet would be more aggressive about something like blogging than I’ve been. I don’t care. Writing in blogs is a foolish waste of time, surpassed in its worthlessness only by the reading of blogs.

So you don’t have to read this. In fact, I’d encourage you not to. I’m not writing it for you, chances are pretty good that by the time someone reads this i won’t be writing at all. In the off chance i continue, and you desperately want to know who is behind the extraordinary wit and delectable prose, I shall introduce myself.

I am Evanda Remington: husband, father, christian, software consultant, mediocre carpenter, former mudder, biped, reader of arthur conan doyle and p.g. wodehouse, bearer of a big carabiner with keys, enjoyer of chocolate in small amounts, devourer of pasta, doter upon small beasts, poor shot with a rifle, dictator of evandistan, reliably punctual, wearer of jeans, watcher of modern marvels, fan of the steelers, reciter of tennyson and poe, neglecter of email, and, to my great shame, new blogger.

(HT:Evanda Remington)

Friday, September 14, 2007

A day in the life of John

Mindy wants me to put up a new post, so that our blog doesn't get stale. I guess I'll blog my day. MacBeth speaks of "a tale full of sound and fury; signifying nothing." Here is a record of my sound and fury today... (though because of God's grace our lives never signify nothing!)

I got up at 4:30 a.m. (and feat in itself for this late night man) and got to the church by 5 a.m. to look over my notes for my Friday morning men's discipleship group. We're talking about growing in emotional health this Fall. Specifically, today we talked about gaining the ability to name and identify our emotions, and then (through the Psalms) bring them to the Lord. We talked about how praying is always answering speech: God speaks first, then we answer Him. I opened up to the guys and talked about my own struggles with eating and weight and how much of my eating is often driven more by emotions than by hunger. Learning to identify the emotion in the moment and then redirect that emotion in a more godly, healthier way through the power of the Gospel is my goal. I think the 28 or so guys there really appreciated my candor. I got several emails afterwards. I know I appreciate their prayers and support.

I then grabbed a quick bite to eat and had a 10 am appointment, following by a lunch appointment that lasted for 2.5 hours at Blue Mesa Grill. Enjoyable, but intense conversation with a good friend in the church. After lunch, I finished up the final approval process for the Sunday order of worship and the Trinity This Week (~1 hour). Murphy's Law came roaring back today with the breakdown of the church copier, which prints, staples and folds our Sunday bulletins. So Kinkos will print our order of worship over the weekend. Bummer ($). Afterwards, I answered a slew of emails (~100?) rather quickly. Got home around 5:30. Took a quick 15 minute nap. Then we left to go to Small Group over at the Monroe's house.

Tonight in small group we studied Acts 12, where you see the power of Herod contrasted with the power of God through a praying church. Needless to say, Herod died and Peter was freed from prison. God's dealings with us are so hard to anticipate. But He is good (though not always safe) as Lewis says. We also celebrated the Parks triplet's 4th birthday together with cupcakes and candles. We had good time of prayer afterwards, though I could feel myself getting very tired.

We got home around 10:30, and did the quick routine to get Christopher and Sarah into bed. Mindy fed Hannah, I brushed my teeth, and now here we are in the bed at 11:10 at night. Mindy is reviewing her Scripture memory cards and John is blogging. We'll both be asleep very soon. My alarm is set for 7am.

Tomorrow is a big day. I'm moderating a church-wide meeting at 9:30 a.m. concerning a new strategy that would eliminate debt and open a door to new ministry growth for our church. After that we are off to a friend's birthday party. And I've GOT to get an hour on the treadmill and elliptical trainer in tomorrow, since I didn't get it in today and I'm behind this week on my goal of exercising 4 hours total this week.

I also met this week with a nutritionist that I really like and am very optimistic about the help that she is going to give me. Mindy is excited too. Over the past 6 months, I've explored the option of gastric-bypass surgery or lap-band surgery. After talking to numerous people, I've decided to put that on hold for six months and make a good faith effort with the proper support around me. I'm giving it the old college try, but more really wanting to trust the Lord to help me get through those days where a large pizza seems to be the answer to all sorts of uncomfortable emotions, like stress, anxiety, depression, boredom, anger, etc. So I'm optimistic and praying that this new venture with my nutritionist friend will be fruitful. So that's pretty much a normal day in the life of ministry for me, except I didn't get in very much study time or any exercise time today.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

New beds for Christopher and Sarah...

Ah, it's Saturday afternoon, the dishes are done, the laundry is going, all 3 kids are why am I not taking advantage of this golden opportunity to take a nap myself?!? I think the above picture of Hannah illustrates well how I feel most of the time. Here she is, so tired that she's sucking her thumb, and yet she can't seem to take her eyes and hand off of that toy in front of her. My body would thoroughly benefit from a nap right now, and yet I don't want to miss out on any fun I could have while I have some free time! True to my Chinese heritage, one of the ways I define "fun" is taking pictures, editing them, posting them and telling a story (however mundane) through them. Hope you enjoy!

Yesterday two twin beds were delivered to our house so that Christopher and Sarah could have their very own beds. Since we moved Sarah out of the crib and into the toddler bed, Christopher had to move to the guest room bed, which was a full-size bed. Sarah has since outgrown the tiny toddler bed (she kept falling out of it in the middle of the night) and so we simply moved her up into the big full-size bed with Christopher, where there was plenty of room for both. Well, they obviously couldn't stay that way forever, so we decided it was time to replace the one big bed with 2 smaller beds. We also got Van Gogh's "Starry Night" to complement Christopher's solar system-themed bed spread and Monet's "Waterlilies" to go with Sarah's pastel, floral-printed bed spread. Needless to say, they both love the room and their new beds.

Honey Bees in Israel and at Trinity

A local beekeeper, who is a good friend of our Church Business Administrator, removed a rather large beehive from our church property last week. It was a fascinating process to watch. I am amazed at the complexity and order of the decentralized bee colony. Every bee has a specific job to do and does it well, including some bees whose only job is to flap their wings by the entrance to the beehive in order to keep the air circulating. Absolutely amazing. (And secularists say this world is the product of random chance! I don't have enough blind faith to believe that.) I'll try to post some pics of it. Meanwhile, I read this story in the USA Today earlier this week...

JERUSALEM — Archaeologists digging in northern Israel have discovered evidence of a 3,000-year-old beekeeping industry, including remnants of ancient honeycombs, beeswax and what they believe are the oldest intact beehives ever found.

The findings in the ruins of the city of Rehov include 30 intact hives dating to around 900 B.C., archaeologist Amihai Mazar of Jerusalem's Hebrew University told The Associated Press. He said it offers unique evidence that an advanced honey industry existed in the Holy Land at the time of the Bible.

Beekeeping was widely practiced in the ancient world, where honey was used for medicinal and religious purposes as well as for food, and beeswax was used to make molds for metal and to create surfaces to write on. While portrayals of bees and beekeeping are known in ancient artwork, nothing similar to the Rehov hives has ever been found before, Mazar said.


Friday, September 7, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007)

Madeleine L'Engle, Christian and author of "Wrinkle in Time", died today. Christianity Today interviewed her several years ago.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

A diverse reading list

The C. S. Lewis Institute in suburban Washington D.C. offers a very helpful, wonderfully diverse reading list here. These books will ground you not only theologically, but also in cultural engagement with your world.

Peggy Noonan

Peggy Noonan, famed speachwriter for Ronald Reagan and George Bush ("a thousand points of light", "a kinder, gentler nation"), offers a fine assessment of where the Republican nomination process stands at this point. Here. I always enjoy reading her.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

D. James Kennedy (1930-2007)

D. James Kennedy, best remembered as the founder of Evangelism Explosion, passed away in his sleep yesterday morning. Dr. Kennedy made a significant contribution to the cause of evangelism in America through his EE movement.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

Mindy's mom arrived Friday night to spend Labor Day weekend with us. Here are some pictures from our time together...

Any resemblance? Hannah may be 1/4 Chinese, but there isn't an ounce of evidence in her appearance thus far!

Now that we have 3 kids, Paw Paw has been relocated to the sofa bed in our family room. Some may think that we should give up one of our bedrooms for her. What you don't know is that she sleeps on the couch more often than not in her own house! She even objected to having the sofa bed pulled out and made up, but we insisted. She woke to the whispers of Christopher and Sarah creeping down the hallway, "It's Paw Paw...Paw Paw's's Paw Paw!" As soon as she popped her head up, Christopher and Sarah climbed into bed with her.

Paw Paw wasted no time - she got right to work on Christopher's hair.

After the haircut - look how sharp he looks!

Now for Sarah - we like to keep her hair short because she doesn't like her hair pulled back with barrettes or bows... it just looks so cute in a bob.

Later on Saturday evening, we had a combined birthday celebration - Martha's Birthday on Sept. 4th and Philomena's birthday on October 2nd. Mindy cooked a huge meal and baked an Italian cream cake...mmmmmmmm! (yes, I know there are only 7 candles on the cake...but I'm not allowed to say how many candles we needed. Let's just say that if we added up Nana's and Paw Paw's ages, there wouldn't be enough room on the cake for all of them to fit :-).

Picture of Mommy and Hannah after church.

Paw Paw and the grandkids.

Whenever someone shows Sarah 'special' attention, she attaches herself to him/her while rejecting the usual help or assistance from mommy and daddy. All weekend long, Sarah wanted Paw Paw to feed her, help her go to the potty (two activities she normally does all by herself), read her books, and carry her. Despite mommy's objections, Paw Paw was happy to do all of the any grandparent would!